A Migrant’s Nostalgia

Ever wondered how it feels like to be transplant in a foreign country? Millions of people leave their friends and family every year in search of a better life. No matter the circumstances of the before or after, one thing remains true: Every time one moves, they leave behind a piece of themselves and, for the rest of their life, they search for that missing piece.

Migrants are good at creating nostalgia. For many, they want to live in the prettiest colonies to miss those dirty streets of homeland, they want to keep visiting those beautiful parks to complain about the jungles back home.I can’t complain about the complaining—those small things play a big part in making us who we are today. As a child in India, I grew up in that period and in that country: A country  coming to terms with new age technology. A country that was suddenly moved from a socio-communist society to a modern economic powerhouse that it is today. In the bustle and excitement, we hardly had time to realize how quickly we moved from cycles to cars, from black-and-white TVs to plasmas and LEDs. By the time we finally started realizing those changes were now a permanent part of life, we transplanted ourselves to a different place altogether. So how did we react? We recreated nostalgia in our new homes, a recreation that continues to this day no matter where I live.

I recently got invited to a Holi party, an Indian festival of colors (surprisingly, this Coldplay song captures it perfectly). It was a typical Indian-American house, beaming with American hospitality and generosity, plus a big, blossomed front yard, a sharp living room alive with creativity, a big Ganesha statue welcoming visitors and a fridge filled with just enough beers to drown New York City.

As people started pouring in, people from various  social statuses, different regions, speaking different languages, it was clear they had one important thing in common: Each was a first-generation Indian living across the seven seas. Even though we were meeting each other for the first time, the warmth and collective memories of India brought us together. Suddenly, I could feel the house turning to a home, blended with spices.

Present-day India has forgotten the traditions of the past. The festivals are merely reminiscent of how those festivals used to be but our collective migrant memories serve to take us back to the good old days. We still celebrate these festivals as we used to when we were kids (though today we’re treated to more alcohol). At Holi, we wore beautiful clothes, we sang traditional songs and we ate traditional food, all the while creating an India in our memories, memories that we keep reliving time and again.

It’s good to feel home again and it’s good to realize that I am not alone trying to recreate and embrace my memories.

Some Pictures from Holi celebrations,

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Next time someone asks you to join them for a Holi Party, Accept It!!

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